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Ten Frequently Asked Questions About Moving to Indonesia

Practical Information for foreigners, expats and expatriates moving to Indonesia - find out about housing, schooling, transport, shopping and more to prepare you for your stay in Indonesia

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This month we bring you some of the questions that we are most frequently asked. We hope that the answers will be helpful to you.

Q1. Is the air in Jakarta always polluted?

Poor air quality is a fact of life in Jakarta. The pollution in Jakarta consists mostly of substances like Sulfur Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide and dust particles. Seventy per cent of the air-pollution in the city is produced by motor vehicles – private cars, taxis, buses trucks and motorbikes. Since 2001 only un-leaded gasoline has been sold in Jakarta and in 2005 the local government issued a regulation on Air Pollution Control covering fuel improvement, promoting of cleaner vehicle technology, better traffic management, and stringent emission standards as well as law enforcement. This regulation however was not very strongly implemented. Nevertheless, the Clean Air Initiative Asia – an air quality network by the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) – has upgraded Jakarta’s air quality from “very poor” in 2002 to “moderate” in 2012. Most expatriates prefer to live in South Jakarta where the air quality is slightly better than in other parts of the city. They also avail themselves of opportunities to spend as much time as possible outside of the city.

For more information, read our article on Air Pollution

Q2. Is it safe to walk the streets?

Most of Jakarta’s streets do not have proper sidewalks, and those sidewalks that do exist are often in poor condition, and are being used by street vendors or parked motorcycles, therefore walking in Jakarta can be a challenge. The heat and air pollution also make walking unpleasant. Some areas are known to be frequented by pickpockets or thieves riding on motorbikes who may be looking for the chance to grab your purse. Just as in most major cities anywhere in the world, there are areas of Jakarta that may not be safe after dark

for more information, read our article on Security at Home and around Town

Q3. How is the medical care?

There are several hospitals and clinics in Jakarta offering international standard facilities, and many of the doctors practicing have received their basic or specialist training overseas. For minor health conditions Jakarta health care is fine, however many expatriates still prefer to go to nearby Singapore for operations and major medical problems time permitting. There are also
international dental facilities available in Jakarta and many of the practicing dentists obtained their degrees from overseas universities so it is not difficult to find English-speaking dentists. Good dentists can be expensive, and most expatriates make a habit of having regular dental check ups during their home leave.

For more information, read our article on Medical Facilities in Indonesia

Q4. What are common illnesses in Indonesia, Jakarta specifically?

The most common illnesses are:

Bacteria/gastric problems – ensure you and your staff follow proper hand washing and proper washing/disinfecting/handling procedures of vegetables, fruits and other food products, eat only fully cooked meats, avoid ice from unknown sources, drink only bottled water;

Tuberculosis (TB) – have your domestic staff tested yearly as it is highly contagious but treatable; Dengue Fever – use mosquito repellent and take measures around your home and while on holiday, keep your yard clear of standing water;

Malaria – contracted from bite of the Anopheles mosquito, symptoms similar to the fu, not prevalent in Jakarta, there are preventative anti-malaria drugs which should be taken on the advice of your doctor when traveling to remote areas of Indonesia;

Typhoid Fever – caused by Salmonellae bacteria and contracted by ingestion of contaminated food or water, symptoms are poor appetite, headaches and fever, treatable with antibiotics;

Typhus – disease caused by rodent feces, thoroughly clean the tops of your canned goods before opening;

Parasites – all meats should be fully cooked, contact a medical clinic for proper medications;

Avian influenza – eat only fully cooked chicken and chicken products, including eggs, wash eggs in the shell, avoid contact with fowl.

In all cases do not self-diagnose or self-medicate. See a doctor as soon as possible in order to recognize and treat local illnesses.

For more information, read our numerous articles on Medical Concerns During your Stay in Indonesia

Q5. Must our maid live-in? Where can I find a maid?

It is not necessary to have your maid live in at your home or apartment. This is entirely a matter of personal preference.

In Jakarta there are various ways to locate and set up interviews with potential staff for your home. Perhaps the very best way is through word-of-mouth from friends and colleagues as you will have personal references to go by. Another way to source staff is from other helpers’ friends and family. It is possible that someone who is working for a friend may know of someone who is looking for work. Indonesians normally would not just recommend just anyone, as it is seen as a loss of face if that person does not work out. Another excellent source is a classified listing - send an email to [email protected] requesting to subscribe to the daily classified listing (small version of a Craig’s List type listing) where you will find notices of staff available for employment as well as items for sale. Organizations such as ANZA and BWA can provide reference letters from previous employers for staff seeking employment. You can also check community bulletin boards, where expatriates who are leaving the country often post notices in order to place their staff. Often you will have the chance to speak with the former employer. These bulletin boards are found in clubs and organizations frequented by the expatriate community, however to ensure authenticity of information, it is recommended to choose staff from boards that are not accessible to the general public and are located inside the buildings of the clubs and organizations.

For more information, read our article on Hiring Household Staff

Q6. Do I need a security guard?

Many expatriates living in a house have a watchman (or jaga) to guard their home. They are often referred to as day jaga or night jaga, each working a 12-hour shift. jaga’s duty is to ensure the safety of the house, the residents and household contents. He also opens the gate for your car when you leave and arrive home, and deals with people coming to your gate. Various people may come to your gate, trying to sell you something or requesting a donation, legitimate or otherwise. Your jaga should screen these people and, in accordance with your policy, either turn them away or inform you of their presence. Your jaga should never allow anyone to enter your gate without your specific permission. It is much easier to turn an undesirable person away if they have not yet entered your yard. The day jaga often doubles as a gardener and does routine pool maintenance. The night jaga, although he is supposed to, does not necessarily stay awake all night to watch over the house. The presence of a jaga does not make the house impregnable however his presence could act as a deterrent to a potential intruder. Hopefully the jaga would act as an alarm in case of trouble. He should at least be sleeping in a strategic position on the front patio or in the garage. In order to help the jaga stay awake, it’s a good idea to put a small television set or a radio in the garage or other appropriate location. Some homes are guarded day and night by teams of satpam who are trained in guard duties and are distinguishable by the fact that they wear official looking uniforms. The term satpam is an abbreviation of Satuan Petugas Keamanan, which means Security Officers’ Unit. Satpam are considered to be more professional than jaga as they have participated in a training program and are licensed by the local government. The duty of a satpam is to ensure the safety of your family especially in any dangerous situation and to open the gate and screen visitors to your home. They are not expected to assist with domestic duties or pool work. Satpam are hired through an agency or security consultant company. If you have a satpam there is no need for you to employ a jaga.

It is not a necessity that all expats have a guard or a Satpam. However you should evaluate your individual situation, the amount of time the working spouse is traveling, the profile of the working spouse in the company, and the feeling of other family members bout their safety; based on these circumstances you can make a decision as to what extra security may be required.

For more information, read our article on Residential Guards and Watchmen - Jaga

Q7. Are the schools good?

Choosing a school for your children is a very important decision for expatriate families moving to Jakarta and generally one of the highest priorities. Fortunately there are numerous international schools of a very high standard available. The largest international school in Jakarta is Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS), which has a total enrollment of over 2,000 students at three campuses all located in South Jakarta. The school is open to English speaking students of all nationalities and has many excellent facilities. The school year runs from mid August to early June. A very high quality of education is also provided by the British International School (BIS) following the British National Curriculum and offering GCSE as well as the International Baccalaureate. The school is located on a large modern campus with impressive facilities at Bintaro on the South West outskirts of the city. The school is open to British citizens and other English speaking students and has an enrollment of over 1,000 students. The school year begins in late August and ends in June. Other options for English speaking students include ACG International School, the Australia Independent School (AIS), The Singapore International School (SIS), the New Zealand Independent School, Gandhi Memorial International School and Sekolah Pelita Harapan - SPH International Kemang Village. For speakers of other languages there are schools such as Deutsche Internationale Schule (DIS), Jakarta International Korean School (JIKS), Jakarta Japanese School (JJS), Lycée International Français (LIF) and Nederlandse Internationale School (NIS).

For more information, surf the listings of International Schools in Indonesia

Q8. Where can I buy a cellular phone?

Major international brands of cellular phones are readily available, including the latest models of smart phones. Any shopping mall in Jakarta will have several stores or kiosks offering cellular phones or hand phones, as they are called in Indonesia. Prices range from approximately Rp 600,000 to Rp 10,000,000. Some hand phones purchased abroad will work in Indonesia provided that you subscribe to an operator that utilizes the same system. For example, if your phone uses the GSM system, you can subscribe to Telkomsel (Simpati, Kartu As, Kartu Halo), Indosat (Mentari, Matrix), Excelcomindo (Jempol, Bebas, ProXL) or Hutchison HCPT (“3”) and all you need to do is buy a GSM card from the Indonesian operator to obtain a new number. The products vary regarding costs of domestic and international calls and SMS, as well as costs for minimum “top up” and international roaming. You can use prepaid card to top up your phone as necessary (this is often referred to as purchasing “pulsa”) or have it done electronically by the vendor. You can also use the postpaid system and pay a monthly bill for the cost of calls you have already made. If you use a pre-paid SIM card you do not need to subscribe to a service, simply purchase a voucher from a shop or phone kiosk and register some personal data to activate it. There are several ways to get connected to a network, and all phone sellers can get you online instantly.

For more information, read our article on handphones

Q9. Is tipping customary in Indonesia?

Tipping is not widespread in Indonesia; however there are certain situations where it is customary or appreciated. The bellboy who carries your luggage when you check in to a hotel should be given a tip of about Rp 20,000 per bag. Hotels and many restaurants automatically add 10-21% service charge in addition to 10% tax to food bills. If you are happy with the service provided it is common to add a little extra. If no service charge is included, a tip of 5 - 10% would be appreciated, but not expected. For taxi drivers 10% or a tip of Rp 5,000 to Rp 20,000, depending on the distance traveled is appropriate, or just round up the fare to the nearest Rp 5,000. In a hair salon there is a hierarchy with the hair stylist expecting a higher tip than the person who shampoos your hair. Tips are also customary for massages, manicures, etc. as well as for golf caddies and ball boys on the tennis court.

For more information, see Tipping in Indonesia

Q10. Where can I buy western-sized clothing?

Western-sized clothing is available at some department stores belonging to international chains and also at factory outlet stores. A lot of clothing is made in Indonesia for export and some of it ends up in the local outlets in Jakarta and Bandung. See the AWA Jakarta Shopper’s Guide for listings of factory outlet stores. If you are unable to find something you like you could also take advantage of the excellent and inexpensive tailoring and dressmaking services available throughout the city.

Our appreciation to Colliers International for their generous contribution of this article.

Last updated February 3, 2014

Housing and schooling information for expats in Indonesia expatriate website for Indonesia Indonesian language translation of article

Practical Information for foreigners, expats and expatriates moving to Indonesia - find out about housing, schooling, transport, shopping and more to prepare you for your stay in Indonesia

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